Opinion: Mahathir is wrong, Umno’s best interest lies in remaining with the unity government

The chances of Umno bettering its result in the next general election is actually better if it remains in the unity government than in joining PN or going its own way. If it joins PN, Umno is going to be fishing in the same pond with Bersatu and Pas, which will limit the number of seats that it can win, even under the best-case scenario.

(Newswav) – That former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is using the Kemaman by election results to predict that Umno will be wiped out in the 16th general election if it doesn’t sever ties with DAP and return to struggle for race, country, likely reveals more about Mahathir than it does about Umno.

The result of the Kemaman by election is certainly an indication that the problem that has plagued Umno from the day that Anwar and Mahathir feuded in 1998 is continuing to debilitate it till today.

From 1998 onwards, in the aftermath of the Anwar- Mahathir feud, Umno has ceased to be the sacred party of the Malays.

It is because Umno has ceased to command the confidence of the Malays in 1998 that Mahathir had to resign in 2003.

For a while, it looked like the resignation of Mahathir would be enough to reconcile the Malays with Umno, but the reconciliation did not last long. Although Mahathir’s successor, Pak Lah, started off promisingly, by sweeping 198 of the 222 seats for the Umno led BN in the 2004 elections, he had lost most of what Umno and BN had gained by the 2008 election.

Pak Lah’s losses, which saw Umno and BN losing the two thirds majority in the parliament for only the second time in its history, resulted in Pak Lah being dethroned and Najib being installed as the Prime Minister in 2009.

Najib’s troubled reign ended in 2018 when for the first time, a coalition that was not led by Umno was installed as the government of the day.

Since 2018, Umno has played the role of either the second fiddle or the opposition in the country.

More crucially, its reputation as the sacred party of the Malays has taken such a beating, that at this point in time, it certainly looks doubtful as to whether it would ever be able to regain its lost reputation.

Before Anwar and Mahathir feuded, only Pas could challenge the position of Umno as the party of the Malays, and that too by a long shot.

Today, there are half a dozen Malay parties that can claim to represent the Malays, and half of these parties likely have a stronger claim in representing the Malays than Umno.

As it stands today, Umno is behind Pas, Bersatu and PKR in representing the Malays.

Judging from the way that it performed in all the by-elections that has been held post GE 15, including the recently concluded Kemaman by-elections, it is doubtful as to whether Umno will ever be able to reverse its fortune unless it does something substantial to turn things around.

Mahathir’s advice that Umno return to fighting for race, religion and country however, is unlikely to reverse its fortune simply because fighting for race, religion and country is a crowded field. Everybody from Pas to Bersatu to Pejuang are clamouring to do it, and if Umno’s joins them in the game that they are playing, it will have to join them as a follower, not the leader.

It is precisely because Umno felt that it was crowded and overshadowed that it decided to sever ties with Bersatu and Pas and face the general election last year on its own. If it takes Mahathir’s advice and re-joins Bersatu, it is going to have to collaborate with Bersatu and Pas once again, which will then mire it in the same problem that it faced when it collaborated with them the first time around.

Insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

If Umno listens to Mahathir, the only thing that will happen to it is that it is going to drive itself insane.

Rather than listen to Mahathir, it might perhaps be better for Umno to look past its current state of decline, and take a longer view of the future. If Umno takes a long-term view of the future, it will likely see that its best interest lies in remaining with PH and the unity government.

Umno’s main problem right now is not that it isn’t fighting for race, religion and country, as Mahathir is suggesting, but that it is being led by the immensely unpopular Zahid Hamidi, who is considered a borderline traitor by the Malay electorate. Just removing Zahid, and bringing back the likes of Khairy Jamaluddin or Hishammuddin Hussein might be enough to revive its fortune substantially, even if it does not revive it in full measure.

Regardless of what Mahathir says, Umno’s problem is not that it is collaborating with Dap, but that it is collaborating with Dap from a junior position. If it was collaborating with Dap from a senior position, the Malays will probably not find it that difficult to accept Umno and Dap being on the same side.